“Jodidísimos”: The Local Politics of Hydrocarbon Acceptance in Colombia’s Eastern Plains

Abstract / Resumen / Resumo

Scholarship on extractive politics tends to focus on locals' contestation and rejection of industry. Less attention has been given to the politics of communities that have accepted the presence of the extractive industry, communities like El Morro in Colombia’s eastern plains, the country’s most important hydrocarbon producing region. The arrival of the hydrocarbon industry in El Morro catalyzed ecological degradation, paramilitary violence, land dispossession, and political instability. Such conditions made traditional tools of liberal politics—things like litigation, activism, or resistance—inviable in El Morro. Rather than simply a case of community oppression via corporate and/or state actors, El Morro is an example of an effective local hydrocarbon politics of acceptance. This paper describes El Morro’s politics of acceptance as based on expansive beliefs about local labor and land, beliefs that reflect seminal scholarship on capitalism and government that has previously gone unapplied to theories of extractive politics. This paper argues that those expansive, locally-produced meanings and values of labor and land—presented as integral to the functioning of the hydrocarbon industry—are fundamental to the community of El Morro’s ability to win political concessions from corporate and/or governmental institutions. Analyzing local politics of acceptance of extractive industries is fundamental to a more comprehensive understanding of extractive governance.